Outstanding Screenwriting Training: University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
A sign of the times: This summer, UM’s Screen Arts & Cultures department will change its name (pending regents’ approval) to Film, Television and Media. A TV Writing I class, where students write a spec script, is taught every term, with a cap of 16 that’s often exceeded. Roughly six of those students advance to TV Writing II, where they write an original pilot and receive masterclasses from industry talent. “What we’ve figured out how to do in our department is link the top screenwriters and TV writers in our acclaimed Screenwriting Program with our most advanced production students in order to produce original films and television pilots,” says Jim Burnstein, director of UM’s Screenwriting Program. In a given semester, roughly 70 students are now writing a screenplay or TV script, and past masterclass instructors have included acclaimed screenwriters Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) and Alexander Payne. On affordability, Burnstein notes that in 2018 Michigan started a program where in-state students with families earning under $65,000 are admitted tuition-free.
Top-Notch Equipment and Facilities: DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
Yet another signpost of the future: This fall, DePaul will offer a new Showrunning concentration in its BFA in Film & Television. The school prides itself on staying ahead of the curve, and according to Associate Professor of Screenwriting and Production Gary Novak, “our alliance with Cinespace Chicago Film Studios distinguishes us from all other film programs in the U.S.” That partnership gives DePaul students access to a 32,000-square-foot space that houses (or is a shuttle ride from) editing studios, a camera vault, lighting, rigging and grip gear, classrooms and offices. There’s also a working production office and a casting office, along with video editing and color correction pods and top-notch animation facilities. Just as cru-cially, it puts students in proximity to network shows filming on the lot, including NBC’s Chicago Fire and Fox’s Empire. This fall, the School of Cinematic Arts will partner with The Second City to offer two degrees in comedy moviemaking: a Comedy Filmmaking concentration in the BFA in Film & Television and a Comedy concentration in the MFA in Screenwriting.
Outstanding Cinematography Training: Columbia College Chicago (Chicago, IL)
Columbia College’s Cinematography program is, according to Associate Chair of Cinema and TV Arts Wenhwa Ts’ao, one of the school’s oldest and most successful areas of study. It focuses on grounding students in the historical context of cinematography, as well as prepar-ing them for the demands of being a modern DP. The path begins with entry-level work in camera, grip and electrical fields, then students choose a specialization ranging from director of photography to gaffer. “Our goal is to make the transition from student to professional as seamlessly as possible,” says Ts’ao. “That frequently means students are working on professional shows while they’re still students, from Chicago P.D. to the next Hollywood blockbuster shooting in Chicago.” Alumni DPs with exciting current projects include John Guleserian (Love, Simon) and Christian Sprenger (FX’s Atlanta).